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Apr 23, 2019

Greenhouse Gas – What is it anyway?

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By Allen Martis, USA [ Published Date: November 30, 2006 ]

Not so long ago were we introduced to the word ‘Greenhouse’ and it has stayed with us since then.  So what is a Greenhouse gas?  Where can we find these gases in the environment around us?  How does it affect us?  Can countries do anything to stop or rather reduce these greenhouse gases? 

Greenhouse gases are naturally occurring gases like carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and water-vapor too.  There are also the anthropogenic gases which are man-made.  These gases when added to the atmosphere as a result of human activities can have serious environmental consequences.  The scientific community seems to be more riveted now than ever about doing more to help save this world.  We will see the implications after we have an understanding of how these gases have an effect on the atmosphere.

As we know Sun is our major source of energy.  Our planet Earth has an outer shield of magnetosphere that blocks some of the solar storms thereby reducing the lower atmosphere from getting heated.  From the sunlight received, some wavelength is reflected back to space, some parts of it is absorbed by the atmosphere.  This light when reflected back towards space from the Earth’s surface goes back as infrared radiation which is heat and the greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation and traps the heat in the atmosphere.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution kicked off in the late 18th or early 19th century, a lot of these greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide have been emitted to the atmosphere by industries.  About 82% of anthropogenic (man-made) gases are known to be carbon dioxide.   Vehicle and even jet emissions in the last few decades are known to have contributed to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  Prior to the Industrial emissions, the main contributors for greenhouse gases were forest fires and volcanic eruptions.  Volcanoes are known to emit a lot of gases into the atmosphere but these are beyond human control. 

One of the buzz words is 'Global Warming' which is a direct result of the greenhouse gases that house our atmosphere.  Global warming is the observed increase in the earths atmospheric and ocean temperatures and most of the recent increase in the temperatures due to human activities has been observed in the last 50 years.  They are even known to increase the frequency of extreme weather events like drought, floods, hurricanes and even heat waves which can affect the agricultural yields and even glaciar retreats.  In recent years, a few of the big icebergs sitting in the Arctic and Antartica are known to have seemed to change their shape.  Photos taken a few years back when compared to present day have indicated changes in the ice shape and geographic landmarks. 

Realizing the serious consequences, even some well known politicians like Ex Vice President Al Gore has been teaming up with the scientists to give the doom and gloom statistics at the UN gathering.  He showed photos of rapidly melting glaciers in Antartica and noted that if half of Greenland and West Antartica melted away, it would have a devastating effect on rising sea levels.  It is estimated that by the year 2100 if temperatures continue to rise at the present rate, it could result in sea level rise of up to 20 feet worldwide.  Such a rise would threaten cities such as London, New York, Bombay and Tokyo.  Not to mention large parts of Bangladesh, Netherlands and even parts of Florida, Louisiana could be inundated.

I think many would agree that we have seen extreme weather patterns in this lifetime living in India or elsewhere.  So is the rest of the world well informed of the Green house gas emissions and its implications on Global Warming?  Are countries and governments around the world doing enough to keep us and our children and our children’s children and their future environment safe?  Many scientists believe that if we don’t act soon, this process could be irreversible which means future devastations like the ones above could become inevitable.  

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Stany D'Souza, USA :
It’s an excellent article Allen, which resounds the current scientific finding of all the 600 scientists from 113 countries, who met in Paris, France. They affirmatively stated that the current greenhouse effect or the global warming is primarily due to anthropogenic gasses.

Although, the global warming is primarily due to natural causes, current warming is quite unusual and does not correspond with the findings discovered due to natural causes of cyclical warming trends of past only. We are already aware that the prime agents of global warming due to human activity are carbon dioxide and methane and as per current scientific analysis, there is 31%-149% increase of these gasses in the atmosphere than they were in pre-industrial era (before 1750 AD). And these contents are considerably higher than at any time during the last 650,000 yrs.

This finding is based on delta deuterium records, based on Antarctic Ice Cores. Depletion of ozone layer due to emission of Chlorofluorocarbons in another factor of human activity which is responsible for slow meltdown of arctic glaciers (They reflect more sunlight to space than other geophysical bodies).

Although, the Sun and its radiations are the main causes for cyclical warming and we have unusually high activity of Sun's radiations in the past 50 yrs, the current spike of warming trend is quite unusual and preempts any other warming cycles due to its great spike of warming agents never recorded or discovered through any means before.

The United Nations Environmental Protection Agency had its International conference on this very grave issue of global warming two days ago and their finding is alarming. They have expressed great fear of having catastrophic impact on global climate if the anthropogenic gasses continue to rise at the current level.

In this global warming, the US government's ineffectiveness in imposing preventive measures to curtail emissions of greenhouse gasses has made the situation worst. Now is the time for US government to have active listening skills to what the former Vice President of US, Al Gore continued to bang on the administration about great threats of anthropogenic gasses in global warming, to present and on future generations.

Allen, your efforts in providing all of us the right and current information is commendable. Enlighten us with your current scientific developments, which impact us and our future generation.

I know you are in India enjoying the great company of Trevissa. We wish you and Trevissa a safe journey and happy and wonderful life in US.
Add One Out, USA :
Hi Allen and Amar,

Being such a sensitive issue, and much like the debate raging on abortion, there are two facets to this debate. One is of pragmatism, the other is of science. One is of realism and the other is of idealism.

Which one do we go with?

For me the answer is based on which one does less harm. Of course critics may scoff that morality cannot be relative, and that all issues are either black or white in the world. But I believe that there are shades of gray as well.

I don’t mind spending big bucks on fixing Ozone layer than spending billions on Iraq. Even if it’s a waste of money, ultimately, it still does not cause any harm.

Of course, on the other hand, one cannot overlook the pragmatic issues of a capitalist society where economy and energy involve great deal of investment and risk to the people involved.

I think one should strike a middle ground, and some mechanisms should be put in place to control our depleting resources.

Whether the realist is right or wrong, we may not know. Whether the idealist provides a workable idea we may not know either. But we sure know that our actions on the world create an imbalance that need to be rectified time and again.

Newton D’souza
Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait:
Newton,

You said it dude! The whole thing is politically motivated in the guise of service to mankind- stuff that charlatans sell to the gullible masses; Meanwhile we cd rest easy in the knowledge that we wont be affected by a lil heat! Neither will our immediate generations.

To get futuristic, think of a few hundred years from now on and spend now is more a SCI-FI thing. Not all teenage fantasies come good, or do they? I know mine didnt :)
Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait:
Many thanks Allen for acknowledging my views on the biggest 'Hot Fudge' Global Warming!

Sensationalism doesn’t account for Science, nor do pseudoscientific myths propagated by public hysteria.
You asked for logic, quoting increase in Global temperatures? And how much warmer has the earth been in the last one century? 0.6 degrees in the last 100 years ; 0.1 degree every decade over the last 3 decades? Or is that too much?

Allen, let me run you down the various vagaries the so called GREEN men have created in the run-up to the latest fad to rule the world…Global Warming

1. The 70's saw the emergence of Global cooling, cos the earth reportedly cooled down between 195-1947 and 1972. The Greens then claimed a "NEW ICE AGE' was in the making. Any mention of warming then, would have rubbished off as they claimed man-made sulphur aerosols and carbon aggravated this cooling- the anthropogenic reasons. This fad died down and the same scientists who wrote the best-sellers on this ICE AGE subject began talking 'GLOBAL WARMING'.

The journal 'Science' which earlier promoted the cooling fad now turned a tad warmer. And why not?
2. Acid rains became the next sensation; scientists claimed Cow dung and termites releasing Methane that caused holes in the stratosphere.
Such a load of dung indeed!
3. Armed with supercomputers, they now started the royal fudge (may be over some Hot steaks and cold chocolates for dessert).
The Globe started warming…
The logic- this one's to answer your question Allen- Pseudoscience and the associated fads defy logic and are a direct product of the various politico-social forces that drive them.
Of course there are the vested interests- GREEN BUCKS dude!
The CONSENSUS I mentioned and You stuck by, are based on these tenets
a. The earth is getting warmer ( 0.6 degree C last 100 years; 0.1 degree/ decade last 30 years)
b. Thanks to Man and his deeds on earth
c. Burning fossil fuels (car, industries) causes increase in Carbon dioxide- which is responsible for GLOBAL WARMING. More you burn, more the WARMING.
d. The clincher- a freaking altruistic notion- We must stop burning fossil fuels across the world (Means exercise political power – GLOBAL dictatorship and keep the fuel costs escalating- More money) .
For people who could not predict a KATRINA hitting New Orleans (they said FLORIDA), they could do better than this balderdash about warming.
Allen, I could elaborately talk about the junk science w.r.t the ocean temperatures and sea levels. That’s for another day!

I would however like to add a couple of things- In the wake of KYOTO AGREEMENT OF 2005, there has been a sci-spend of nearly 80 billion dollars- all this to stop the earth warming by 0.008 degrees. All this is tax-payers money dude!

Wake up USgaars before your hard earned federal taxes go down the gullets of pseudo-altruist pathogens.
About Stephen Hawking, I have read a couple of his works too. He is entitled to his views and voicing his concerns. If he believes in the Big Bang, would you? Where does that leave the Fear of God? Find out more in his Brief history of time.

Is the greenhouse effect, the way you mentioned? There is a day and night difference between an actual greenhouse and the so called greenhouse effect. When I said Day and night, I meant it! CO2 release being the common denominator. One is in the presence of light and the other in its absence. Hence plants are not analogues of burning fossil fuels …oh I could ramble endlessly on this.

Thanks for letting me tax my little brain on this very interesting and debatable subject! Look forward to more……
Add One Out, USA :
Global warming is a hot topic indeed! So let me jump into the debate as well.

First, let’s look at both sides. On one side we have protagonists who think that the Global warming is real. And it will cause havoc in the future, if not already. On the other side we have the antagonists who think that there is no evidence to this because we can’t pin point factors that affect it.

Both these viewpoints are valuable. But I think I tilt slightly towards being precautious than sorry.

In North America, the federal government is against the myth of Global warming because it affects their profits on energy production (who for the most part are right-leaning). This is a pragmatic concern for many businesses as well.

However, at local governmental level, leaders are trying to place initiatives to curb Global warming. You can look at Gov. Schwarzenegger’s initiatives in California and several other European countries (who are for the most part left-leaning).

In summary you can look at Global warming as a clash between right and the left wings of global politics. But, I think, leaving politics aside, it’s ultimately how much we as a human race are willing to take care of mother earth, not just for ourselves, but for the future generations.

Newton D’souza
Allen Martis, USA :
Hi Amar, Shaly, Dots and Carol,

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read the article. Amar, I respect your views. Anyone can fabricate ways to head for war but melting glaciers speak for themselves. Glaciers that have stayed in good shape since the creation of the planet are now jeopardized by increase in temps. If you dont believe in Global Warming, can you please give me a logic for the glaciers to melt rapidly considering that it has started to happen only in the last few decades than ever before.

I think you have one fact wrong. USA did not initiate the global warming as a country. It was an consensus reached by the scientific community and now supported by the international body. Coincidentally at this juncture, President Bush just like you doesnt buy the notion of Global Warming. Currently this has been spear-headed by the European scientists.

Can I ask you a question? Do you believe in God? If so, can you prove that he exists? I bet not. There are some things you either believe or you dont. Like I said before I respect your standing as a cynic on this issue.

Stephen Hawking a well known Physicist recently made a comment "We need to explore new worlds outside our own and colonize. We as earthlings face a far greater threat in the future of our planet home getting wiped out by an asteroid or a comet. Let us follow the star-trek world and "BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS BEFORE"

We would think for a minute. Here we have a skeptic who is a well known physicist studying the world outside our planet since he was in his teens and how could he think of the dooms day. Well, he knows that at some time in the future, this may be inevitable. There are passages in the bible which point to the end of time. In other words, the Judgement Day. Do we believe in it? Is there proof that such things could really happen. Well, thats upto us to either believe or not.

Global warming in my opinion is a belief based on some very conclusive facts of depleting ice and glaciers and this has resulted from the increase in temperature in the last few decades. Its reached a point where we have no time to discuss but to act on preventing the emission of Co2 and other gases into the atmosphere and this has to start with the governments themselves trying to invest a whole lot of money otherwise the day is not too far when things could have been prevented but were not and has finally lead to some low lying coastal areas getting permanently wiped out.
Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait:
GREENHOUSE gases and Global warming!

Allen, pardon me if I sound a wee bit cynical- your take on this so called hyped up phenomenon seems to me, a product of the elitist theories.

Global Warming is as treacherous as Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. And as preposterous too!

What's the big idea in this weird comparison??

These have been the US Senate's biggest money spinners in recent history and interestingly all three are creations of one of the world's richest democracies to fuel its bestial desire of siring the world!

For the record, one of them has been handed out a death sentence by trial while his country was ravaged and plundered by the defenders- the aftermath resulting in a destruction even more horrendous than the dictatorship. Result- USA goes home richer in the name of RECONSTRUCTION of Iraq.

The second has been evading the allied forces (reportedly made of the strongest military, the world can perceive) hiding in caves. Now this raises three doubts in the mind of the discerning- Does Osama exist? Is this military force capable? If so, why is he not smoked out of his cave? This has been going on for years now and a president is reaching the end of his second term! Paving way for Oil pipelines across the Taliban Country reducing billions of dollars of cost in transporting black Gold!

The third is by far the mother of all treason. Gathering fictitious data and conveying them to the world through renowned scientific channels. Then this has been revved up by the media and used even celebrities to authenticate the falsehood.

Gimme a break, why would I believe a raunchy 'Like a virgin' Madonna to hum to me on global warming? It's another thing if she talked about the heat she raised during her steamy on & off GLOBAL stage performances!

The result-Global warming becomes an issue for the world to reckon with. And the US senate signs off a few billion dollars to fund the research on a virtually non-existent happening! Not to mention, the billions that pour in from philanthropists!

Consensual science (this is not about sex) and Global warming to me is akin to the 'Doomsday theories' propagated by Pagans!

Its time the world got together to fight the chaos-creators. As the popular saying goes, who goes home richer in any deal? The middle man of course.

US of A, thanks for playing 'mama' and selling us this pleasure tool of Global Warming! Titillating to the masses undoubtedly.

Allen, I am not surprised you are sold on to this fixation too. Most of the world is! Yeah a debate is on, count me in!

I like reading your articles tho!
Dots Rego, USA :
Hey Allen,

Very interesting article on greenhouse gas. Thanks for enlightening us. Keep writing more Len.
Shaly Pereira, Oman:
A very well researched article Allen. This is a topic that is ingrained in the school syllabus these days perhaps an indication that it needs to be taken very seriously.

Do keep writing. Your articles are always very informative and interesting.
Carol Martis, Kuwait:
Hi Allen,

How are you, nice article on Greenhouse Gas, very informative. Keep writing and God bless u.

Regards,

Carol
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